|By Celeste McGovern
Alberta Report, July 3, 1995, Page 24
The three-week Court of Queen's Bench trial of an Edmonton man
accused of stalking his ex-wife and her mentally disturbed roommate was, if nothing
else, a study of a marriage gone horribly awry. But it was also a showcase for the
controversial new Canadian law that is supposed to protect women from men in situations
where harassment may lead to violence. Subplots included an alleged lesbian affair
between the ex-wifea psychotherapistand her patienta masseuse, who was
said to be suffering from a mental illness called multiple personality disorder. In
the end, Mr. Justice Alec Murray said he wanted to make an example of the defendant, to
show the public what happens when the stalking law is violated, and last week he sentenced
St. Albert jewellery manufacturer Erwin Franz Miller [not his real name] to 21 months in Provincial jail.
Miller's life began to unravel during the spring of 1992.
Previously, the 48-year-old Austrian-born man had, by all appearances, enjoyed enviable
material comfort and domestic tranquility. He and his ex-wife Colleen Anne
Miller [Miller is a pseudonym]
(née Orr) had been married for 20 years and were raising two teenage boys, Richard and
Paul. They had lived in South Africa for most of their time together, but had
travelled widely. After their third trip to St. Albert, in 1988, they decided to
Miller established a brisk jewellery business while his wife, who had
studied and practised psychology in South Africa since the early 1980s, hung out her
therapy shingle across the street from her husband's shop. One of her clients was
Sherry Ferland, who was referred to Dr. Orr by the Worker's Compensation Board in late
1991 to deal with her "stress." Ms. Ferland's condition apparently
worsened under Dr. Orr's care. Their initial weekly sessions increased to three or more
lengthy meetings a week and within a few months, according to Dr. Orr's later
testimony, Ms. Ferland was diagnosed as suffering from multiple personality disorder
(MPD). The affliction is based on the hotly-debated theory that people who
experience childhood trauma such as sexual abuse repress their disturbing memories
and develop alternate personalities or "alters" to "cope."
Under Dr. Orr's care, which included hypnosis, Ms. Ferland developed
more than 100 alters, including males, females, adults, children and two
homosexuals. About the same time she was developing her legions of inner selves, Ms.
Ferland also became more intimate with her therapist's family. Paul
Miller, now 18,
told court that his mother would talk about her MPD patient with her family and Ms.
Ferland would call the house frequently, often identifying herself as one of her
alters. "My sons would tell me there is a call from Johnny but it sounds
like Sherry," Dr. Orr testified.
Paul also testified that during the summer of 1992, while his
family was vacationing in London, Ms. Ferland called from Canada several times to speak
with his mother. On the family's return, he added, Ms. Ferland was at the airport to
greet her therapist and the couple drove home together, leaving Mr. Miller and his sons
to travel in a separate vehicle. Mr. Miller claimed that his wife and Ms. Ferland
had embraced at the airport and Ms. Ferland was carrying flowers.
Other bizarre particulars of the therapist-client relationship were
raised in court. By the fall of 1992, Paul testified, Ms. Ferland would drive him to
his German and other lessons. It was routine that she would pick up Dr.
registered member of the Psychologists Association of Alberta (PAA), on Saturday Mornings
and the pair would go home for the day. These outings, ostensibly part of Ms.
Ferland's therapy, included trips to West Edmonton Mall, playgrounds, and a showing of the
Christmas ballet The Nutcracker. Ms. Ferland testified that if "the children
were out" (referring to her child alters), they sometimes brought Dr.
dandelions as an expression of gratitude. Her female alters, on the other hand,
"might have winked at her."
Ms. Ferland also spent nights at the Miller residence, Paul
testified. She would usually sleep on a mattress next to his mother's bed. On
one occasion, Paul said, he saw Ms. Ferland, who now practises massage therapy in Dr.
Orr's office building and lives with her, giving a massage to his mother on her
bed. Once, while they were on a ski trip together, Ms. Ferland massaged his leg too.
Mr. Miller's lawyer Kirk MacDonald argued that Ms. Ferland had in fact
become "the other woman in a triangle." Mr. Miller claims that his
deteriorating marriage went into a tailspin when Ms. Ferland entered the equation.
Just before Christmas, 1992, Dr. Orr announced that she wanted a divorce.
Mr. Miller testified that he returned unexpectedly early from a
ski trip with his sons and found evidence that a cigarette smoker had slept in his bed and
used his bathroom. Later that day, he said, he saw his wife kissing Ms. Ferland, who
was a smoker, in a car in her driveway and he became convinced that they were having a
lesbian affair. Within a few days his wife obtained an order evicting him from the
Miller reacted badly. Police were called when his wife reported
that her husband was lying on his bed holding a rifle to his head. The weapon was
found to be unloaded after a brief stand-off. "I was cleaning my gun," he
claimed in court.
More trouble ensued when Dr. Orr obtained a restraining order
prohibiting her husband to come within 100 yards from her office and their matrimonial
home. But his office was only 78 yards from hers, and he kept working there despite
the court order. Miller testified that he believed the edict would be overturned
because it kept him from his legitimate workplace.
Neither the police nor the courts agreed , however, and he was arrested
repeatedly for breaching variations of the order. "It got so that I was
arrested in the middle of the night without ever knowing what for," he told the
The warring parties, who were described as behaving like "two
scorpions in a closed jar" by Miller's former lawyer David Schwartz, soon expanded
their battleground beyond their offices and home. Dr. Orr filed affidavits
alleging that her husband shadowed her in his car, and trailed her to fast food
restaurants. She contacted police each time he dropped her sons off at her door
(instead of down the street) and when he attended their basketball games and a piano
Both the Millers and Ms. Ferland began carrying cameras, on the advice
of their lawyers, to secure evidence as to who was following whom. And although all
three parties swore they were trying to avoid each other, their encounters seemed to defy
mathematical chance. Miller, for instance, testified that he had a chance run-in
with his ex-wife and Ms. Ferland at Edmonton International Airport where he said he
stopped after working on and test-driving his car.
Miller also testified that he deliberately defied the civil
restraining orders and signed a lease for an office he knew breached them because, in his
opinion, he was morally justified in doing so. The orders, he said, "were
placed against me by these individuals because they knew they were in an immoral,
unethical relationship, and they knew that I knew, and that I would make a complaint to
the PAA," he testified.
Indeed, Dr. Miller (who continues to practice in St. Albert as Dr.
Orr) was reviewed by the PAA last December when she admitted to breaching the group's
ethical codes regarding doctor-client relationship. The PAA quietly reprimanded her
and required that she take a course. It did not object to Ms. Ferland now living
with her ex-therapist in the Miller's former home.
The passage of the stalking law in August, 1993 gave Dr. Orr a
powerful new weapon. Though she conceded at his trial that he had never once acted
violently towards her in 20 years of marriage, his numerous breaches of the civil
injunctions provided compelling evidence in the criminal case that he was actually
"stalking" her. He was jailed for four-and-a-half months before
Dr. Orr's testimony was tearful and fearful, despite her husband's
apparently non-violent disposition. "My life isn't a life," she
sobbed. "My life is hell. There's no quality in my life any longer.
I don't know if he's going to become violent, I don't know if he's going to hurt me,
the kids, or even Sherry."
Ms. Ferland seemed to remain one personality on the stand, but she
alternately attacked the defence counsel or unravelled into a weeping shaking victim when
pointed questions were asked of her. Cross-examination was repeatedly interrupted by
a solicitous Mr. Justice Murray so she could collect herself, and he once allowed her to
answer a question with "no comment."
Curiously, Miller's legal aid defence lawyer Mr. MacDonald did not
attempt to challenge the credibility of Ms. Ferland's testimony by questioning the
authenticity of her disorder. Experts in the field are badly split on the issue, as
psychologists Hollida Wakefield and Ralph Underwager note in their 1994 book,
the Furies: "Many psychologist doubt whether MPD exists at all except as a media or
therapist-induced disorder." Nonetheless, Mr. Justice Murray entertained Dr.
Orr as the sole "expert witness" on MPD at the trial of her own ex-husband,
against whom she herself had brought charges.
The six-man, six-woman jury did not find Ms. Ferland credible
anyway. In a decision which the judge admitted he found surprising, they found
Miller guilty of stalking his ex-wife but not guilty of stalking Ms. Ferland, even
though the pair's evidence was for the most part inextricably linked.
Crown prosecutor Brian Peterson had suggested a six-month sentence for
Miller, but Mr. Justice Murray sentenced the defendant to 21 moths in provincial
jail. Not only did he want to set an example for other potential stalkers, but he
also observed that Miller had tarnished the reputation of the two women. "Your behaviour is unacceptable and it has to be repudiated by the society we live in," the
judge thundered. "This type of behaviour has become all too prevalent."
The judge also cited Miller's remorselessness as an aggravating
factor. Indeed, the tired-looking defendant with thinning hair told the court upon
hearing his sentence, "I'm still innocent. I believe I am a victim of a
There was no evidence supporting Miller's alleged conspiracy, except
in the broadest sense. Some 2,600 Canadians, mostly men, were charged under the
stalking law during the first year, and many of them argued that they were being
victimized by vindictive women using a discriminatory blunderbuss designed by feminist
ideologues. That argument got little sympathy from a male security guard at the
Miller trial, however. "Even if he is innocent," the man shrugged outside
the courtroom after the verdict, "we've had power over women for hundreds of
years. Now it's their turn."
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